16 June 2007

Hapax legomenon

Awesome word. How is it that I've never heard of this before? A hapax legomenon (ἅπαξ λεγόμενον) is a word that occurs only once in a corpus (a book, an author's works, a written language, etc.). An example from Wikipedia:

Autoguos (αυτογυος), an ancient Greek word for a sort of plough, is found once (and exclusively) in Hesiod, the precise meaning remaining obscure.

That entry also points to nonce word. A nonce word is made up on the spot and probably won't be used again (think "debigulator" from The Simpsons). I only knew of "nonce" from a wacky British show called Brass Eye. They had a fake documentary in 2001 (hilarious transcript here) mocking the overblown fear of pedophiles at the time. Nonce is a British term for pedophile. A sample of the wackiness:

KATE THORNTON (Broadcaster/Journalist) : We even have footage that would be too alarming to show you of a little boy being interfered with by a penis shaped sound wave generated by an online paedophile.

SYD RAPSON (MP Labour) : We believe that paedophiles are using an area of the internet the size of Ireland and through this they can control keyboards.

RICHARD BLACKWOOD (comedian/musician) : Online paedophiles can actually make your keyboard release toxic vapours that make you suggestible. (sniffs keyboard) You know I must say I actually feel more suggestible and that's just from one sniff.

Heh-heh. An area of the internet the size of Ireland. That still makes me laugh. Phil Collins got spoofed into being interviewed for the show and later tried to sue them.

[ posted by sstrader on 16 June 2007 at 11:48:10 AM in Language & Literature ]